Susan Grossey

The writer as scavenger

For various reasons I have been thinking quite a lot about Sam Plank recently (for new readers, he’s the policeman hero of my historical novel “Fatal Forgery”).  It’s not that long to go until he and I shack up together for a whole month (on my self-declared writer’s retreat) and then he will tell me all about his new adventure (due for publication in mid-October).  It’s not completely out of the blue, of course: he has told me some of it already, and together we have plotted its outline, but it’s the details that need to be filled in.  And I have noticed something strange happening.

I suppose it means that Sam is at the back of my mind all the time now.  But whatever I am watching or reading or seeing, I am looking for the Sam angle.  Last night, for instance, I watched a documentary about a year in the life of York Minster.  And all the time I was thinking, “Could Sam have gone to York?  Would he have known anything about it?”.  In the end, I decided that a proud Londoner like Sam probably wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of a grand excursion to York – but he would almost certainly have gone into a grand church or two in his home town.  So now there is a little note stuck on the fridge saying, “Take Sam to church – Martha?”.  The other day, as another example, I was walking into town (I live in Cambridge) and I passed underneath the most delicious smelling tree – a lime, I think.  It was such a strong smell of spring – so there is another note saying, “Sam encounters spring on his beat – check lime trees in London”.  (For the researchers among you, I know that a policeman in 1824 didn’t have a beat – it’s my shorthand for “his little walks around Marylebone”.)  And today I am going to Luxembourg for two days, on a work trip (talking about money laundering to Luxembourg financial people).  There is no way on earth that I could get Sam to Luxembourg in 1825 – well, he could have made the journey, but there is no reason why he would have – so I will have to look for inspiration in other ways.  Perhaps I could make him a fan of patisserie – I hear they are marvellous at it, and I would have to do plenty of sampling to get my description just right.  Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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